Let’s use Powderface Creek pack trail

First, a very short take on trails in the foothills. Going back more than a century, the old pack trail routes were carefully chosen with an eye to the type of terrain they were travelling through. They were gently graded and wherever possible, stayed on hard ground and dry hillsides. Then came logging roads, seismic lines, exploration roads and well roads which pushed across the land willy-nilly and were used mainly in winter when the ground was frozen. When it came time to build the network of  K Country trails in the 1980s, exploration roads and cutlines were sometimes incorporated into the trail system, simply  because they were there. If the routes were illogical, like Ford Creek Trail and the start to Bluerock Creek, for example, so what? We got used to climbing an extra 500 ft when we didn’t have to,  and to clinging to the vertical sides of cutlines, and to sloshing along muddy  logging roads.  OK, maybe the last sentence is an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.

So this brings me to Powderface Creek trail, an exploration road that very handily follows the length of the valley. The middle section is OK, but overall I don’t like this trail. I particularly don’t like the initial section out of the parking lot, which is  stoney, steeply uphill  and holds the ice really well into spring. Why go this way when you can follow the original pack trail that traverses the sunny side of the valley, is soft underfoot and  has a very gradual height gain. Unfortunately, it has been degenerating over the years from lack of use and in some places can barely be seen. Now is the time to put the tread back!

To get on it, cross Powderface Creek on Elbow Valley trail and at the top of the first hill turn left. The start is obscured by fallen trees. You’re soon out of the forest onto dry grassy hillsides with clumps of aspens. Keep traversing.  Sometimes you  have a single track to follow, sometimes you can see  where the trail has been built-up. Occasionally, a fallen tree mean a detour.  As you near its end  it  improves dramatically (perhaps because climbers use this bit when descending from White Buddha), and joins the Corri Robb at a T-junction. Go straight and zig down the bank to the exploration road at 543371. See the previous post, Spring Hiking between Powderface & Prairie Creeks, for a map showing the old pack trail.

Powderface Pack Trail

Powderface Pack Trail

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4 comments… add one
  • Peter Irwin Jun 6, 2010, 12:33 am

    Sounds good! Next week (depending on the weather) i’ll be back on the trail and see what can be done! I agree it would be best to run it from the bank top at the start. There are already a number of blazes on trees nearby but these can’t be seen until you head into the bush and look for them.

  • Gillean Daffern Jun 5, 2010, 8:25 pm

    That’s a lot of work Peter! We dropped in on the pack trail from above on Thursday and noticed the cairns straight off. Yours?
    I am wondering about the start and its downed trees… I believe it would be easier to bypass this section and make a new trail that would run along the bank top initially. There are no obstacles and the odd blaze might be all that’s needed to get people to follow the new line.

  • Peter Irwin Jun 4, 2010, 9:09 pm

    I went over the pack trail and cleared 95 % of it last wed. Unfortunately someone else made an attempt at it and left many stumps sticking out of the ground and trees half cut and folded over. A bit of a mess + alot of things to trip over! I trimmed them all to ground level and removed alot of rocks and other debris to level it out a bit. The beginning of the trail is still a bit obscure as there are a bunch of larger diameter trees fallen across it. These will require more work to remove. Now all that is needed is a bit of traffic to smooth out the trail and make it more obvious!

  • Peter Irwin May 19, 2010, 11:06 pm

    Tonight I was planning on heading up the trail to Vent ridge to check the condition of the Corri Robb trail and clear any deadfall if necessary and decided to approach via the old pack trail. I forgot to check the directions before leaving home so ended up following an animal trail alongside Powderface creek which turned into horrendous bushwacking. My only option was to cross the creek and head straight uphill and hope I find the pack trail. Luckily I happened upon it after a few minutes. I decided to follow it back towards the parking lot to find out where it started. It was a bit vague in a few spots but I managed to follow it to where it joined the Elbow valley trail. I followed it back uphill and cleared out any tripping hazards or branches at eye level until I hit the White buddha trail. I must admit with a bit of work this would be a much nicer route than the horrible up and down road most people use! It must have had a great deal of use in the past as it is well cut into the steep hillside and is quite obviously (in a few spots) man made. Thanks for the info on the trail. I definately will use this over the road and try to clear it out a bit better the next time!

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